A beleaguered Tim Sherwood enjoyed some mild relief thanks to a Christian Eriksen-inspired performance giving Tottenham a 5-1 victory over Premier League basement-dwellers Sunderland at White Hart Lane.
At the end of a day in which it had been widely reported that Sherwood was informed that he would be relieved of his duties at the end of the season, there was further misery early on for the Tottenham boss. Some calamitous defending from Vlad Chiriches presented Lee Cattermole with the chance to score his first goal for Sunderland and the midfielder needed no second invitation.
But it was largely all one-way traffic from then on out, with the superb Eriksen producing two sumptuous crosses to allow Emmanuel Adebayor to finish, as it turned out with his hand, and then Harry Kane to grab his first Premier League goal for the club. With Sunderland’s resistance shattered, a well-deserved, if deflection-aided, effort from Eriksen made it 3-1 before late goals from Adebayor and Gylfi Sigurdsson completed the rout.
Still five points behind fourth-placed Arsenal and four behind Everton having played a game more, the result still looks unlikely to do anything for Tottenham’s prospects of reaching the Champions League. And it appears that chairman Daniel Levy has already begun looking ahead to next season. On the evidence of tonight’s showing, Sunderland may soon have to prepare for life next season in the Championship. Gus Poyet’s side offered little and in the end went down meekly to their fourth straight Premier League defeat, having taken just one point from their last seven fixtures. They may still have games in hand, but they show little sign of taking advantage of them.
Sherwood’s tactics have left much to be desired during his spell in charge and they certainly raised a few eyebrows on Monday evening. With Sandro and Nabil Bentaleb left on the bench, Sherwood handed a first Premier League start to Kane alongside Adebayor in front of an incredibly attacking midfield of Nacer Chadli and Paulinho in the middle, flanked by Eriksen and Aaron Lennon. But Sunderland, who again opted for a 3-5-2, with Adam Johnson floating around Fabio Borini up front, failed to exploit the inherent deficiencies in the opposition’s lineup.
That, despite Spurs’ defense handing them a perfect start in the 17th minute. His first appearance for more than two months proved one to forget for Chiriches. The center-back first caught out his goalkeeper with a short throw in and then when Hugo Lloris returned the ball back to him, Chiriches hit a hurried pass square across his box straight to the feet of Cattermole. The midfielder, not exactly renowned for his ability in front of goal, still did superbly to curl a first-time shot round Younes Kaboul and into the unguarded net.
But it was a lead that Sunderland failed to build on as Tottenham controlled the remainder of the half. Kane was finding himself in the right positions in the box, but the rest of his game was not up to par early on. First when Chadli’s shot directed into his path he shot straight at Vito Mannone and later on he failed to show the adroitness to take the ball in his stride, resulting in his effort being blocked.
It was Eriksen who showed that he was a class apart on the pitch to help Spurs get level. Given too much space down the left, the gifted Dane struck a perfect cross into the danger zone between goalkeeper and defense for what should have been a simple finish at the back post for Adebayor. But after the ball struck him on his thigh, it then got a crucial, unspotted, touch off his arm to divert it into the net.
Another fine Eriksen cross caused mayhem again before half-time and nearly led to Phil Bardsley putting the ball into his own net. Yet, Sunderland, still seven points from safety, appeared to grasp the full seriousness of their situation, and came out with real impetus at the start of the second half. They carried little threat in the attacking third, though, and in the 59th minute they conceded a killer second goal.
This time Eriksen’s cross was in-swinging but caused no less confusion in the Sunderland box, with Wes Brown allowing Kane to run off him and divert the ball past Mannone from inside the six-yard box. All hope was then extinguished for the visitors with 12 minutes remaining. Eriksen’s left-footed strike got a pivotal deflection off the heel of Bardsley and fizzed into the corner leaving Mannone with no chance.
Sunderland’s defense was then terribly exposed to concede two more in the final five minutes. Brown’s poor header allowed Kane in and after Mannone spilled his shot Adebayor grabbed his second before Sunderland’s keeper flapped at a corner and his defenders stood around to allow Sigurdsson to smash a shot into the roof of the net. Having started Poyet’s reign so positively, Sunderland now look to be heading in only one direction.